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Contemplating 2011 -- a look at the year just been and the year ahead

It’s hard to make blanket predictions as to what the year ahead has in store for the ICT sector, especially in light of the tumultuous global events of recent times. It’s my hope that the worst is now behind us all, and there are plenty of positive signs to suggest that this may just be the case. But it’s early days, and so it’s probably safer that I look at the year ahead a bit closer to home, where there’s a lot less guesswork involved.

So, what’s on Intergen’s priority list this year, and what activity do we expect to see?

Being exclusively Microsoft-centric in all things we do, the shape of the year ahead for Intergen is always largely determined by the Microsoft product releases scheduled for the coming 12-month period.


The year of CRM

This year is the year of CRM. With the launch of CRM 2011 at the end of this month, and CRM 2011 Online just launched, there is huge momentum behind the latest release, and a great deal of excitement about its newest features – and rightly so. Intergen has been involved with CRM 2011 behind the scenes in the lead-up to the launch, so we can say with confidence that there’s definitely substance to the hype.

The upcoming release is significant in terms of its features and its architecture, and, from what I’ve seen, I believe it’s a more competitive offering than ever.

Intergen was fortunate enough to be enlisted by Microsoft Corp to build the CRM 2011 demo for Steve Ballmer’s launch keynote, and we also built the developer training kit for CRM 2011. So, while CRM 2011 may be hot off the press, we’ve already learned (and in some cases even developed) the ropes.

If you want an overview of CRM 2011 – whether it’s cloud-based or on-premises – you can find the CRM virtual launch presentation (complete with our demo material) here.

The developer training kit is also soon to be launched on Microsoft’s Channel 9, so if you’re after the definitive up-close guide to CRM 2011, make sure to follow us on Twitter (@TeamIntergen) for updates and links as they happen.

Of course, when I say that it’s the year of CRM, I don’t mean it’ll take centre stage at the expense of any other area of focus. Just as last year SharePoint got a big push with the launch of SharePoint 2010, CRM will receive the same kickstart this year with Dynamics CRM 2011.


ERP in the cloud

And while we’re on the subject of Microsoft Dynamics, a Microsoft ERP cloud offering isn’t far away. With CRM and SharePoint already in the cloud, bringing ERP into the fold will be a focus for us this year.


A move towards “utility IT”

As you may have seen in our latest SMARTS magazine late last year, Intergen recently introduced a new service offering to the market: Infrastructure Management Services. This move signals a transformational shift in approach both for Intergen and the IT sector on the whole. We’re seeing increased demand for “utility IT” from our customers, a desire for us to take on more responsibility for their IT – building and looking after not only their software applications, but also their entire IT platforms, whether these are housed on-site, privately partner hosted or in the public cloud.

The reason this shift has come about seems to be that people are growing tired of being tasked with the costs, overheads, time and operational minutiae associated with managing their IT systems. That’s one of the reasons the cloud is so attractive as a business proposition: in opting for the cloud as an IT model, all these age-old burdens effectively (and immediately) disappear. 

A move towards utility IT – in essence the next generation of outsourcing – will be a focus for us this year. As service providers to our customers, the more inclusive and comprehensive the service we can offer, the more value we will be able to offer.

We never wanted to have a workforce of engineers or to become hardware resellers, and this hasn’t changed. Now with all the various different technologies in place, we have the opportunity to offer infrastructure management services without having to lug hardware or carry screwdrivers.


Company growth

There has been some noise in the media lately about projected growth in employment numbers, with the IT sector picked to lead the charge. Putting Intergen within this context, this picture seems realistic. We’re on track for a year of growth, in New Zealand and Australia.

Before the Global Financial Crisis settled in towards the end of 2009, Intergen’s year-on-year growth was consistently between 25 – 30% each year since 2001. Over the recession this dropped to 7% growth. This year we’re expecting to get back up to more than 20% growth, and to then stay in that 25 – 30% growth range in subsequent years.

As I said before, while I can’t predict the future, it’s true to say that as a company we’re definitely feeling more confident, and as a result we’re acting more confidently. This enables us to be more forward-looking rather than worrying what’s happening on a day-to-day basis.

At the end of 2009 we saw a small upswing in demand, which entirely flattened out in 2010. We then saw a big upswing at the end of 2010, which hasn’t yet shown any signs of abating. Intergen is quite diversified geographically and in the services we offer. We’re seeing really good growth prospects in all areas at the moment.


Lessons learned in 2010

In difficult times it can be hard to know whether to hunker down or to adopt a slightly braver approach. It becomes harder to take risks, even qualified ones, when you’re not sure what’s going to happen from one month to the next.

Through the period when demand for our services was at its lightest, we were determined to work hard to maintain our levels of capacity and keep our good staff on board. This meant we felt the pain all the way through the downswing in activity, but it has put us in a strong position to take advantage of an improving IT market – especially with a return to a skills shortage of IT professionals being predicted! If we’d scaled back in line with the downward trend, we’d have had real difficulty gaining momentum and the required resources when the demand picked back up.

Of course when the chips are down you have to look at all your options. But one thing we realised many years ago was that we’re either going to be a big company or no company at all. We’ve traditionally operated as a company in growth mode, and this is the mode that suits us best.


A new Northern Regional Manager for Intergen

It is with some sadness that we farewell Shaun Donaghey as Intergen’s Northern Regional Manager. Eight years ago, Shaun took on the challenge of establishing an all-new Auckland Intergen office. He has grown the Northern region from nothing to a 40-plus person business – and by no stretch of the imagination have we finished growing yet. (To give you some idea, we’re looking to double this number over the next three years.) And while Shaun will be missed, and moves on with our every best wish, if there was ever a good time to be leaving, it’s now. Shaun has left the Northern Region in a really good state, and we’re currently looking to the market for his replacement – big shoes to fill, but we look forward to the challenge and the start of a whole new chapter in the history of the Auckland office.


Value for money

In the economic downturn, value for money became an all too familiar catch-cry as companies focused harder than ever on doing more with less.

Ever since Intergen opened its doors almost 10 years ago, the need for value for money has always been on our strategic radar. It’s a big deal for us, and it always was – one of the founding principles of Glazier Systems (which became Intergen in 2001) was to deliver greater value to our clients.

Last year in particular brought home to us how important it is that our customers derive real value from the services we deliver, and this will be a continued, even renewed, focus for us this year.
One thing I observe time and again is that New Zealand businesses tend to be small – and much smaller than our offshore counterparts – but no less complex. Herein lies the value problem. New Zealand’s IT systems are by and large of a global standard, yet we most often do not have the scale within organisations to rationalise the expense of implementation on a cost-per-user basis.

It’s therefore very important that vendors have a focus on value. It’s important that they don’t get too driven towards always upholding what’s seen as best practice without questioning what is best and what will deliver the most value for the organisation in question. Because best practice in New Zealand is not necessarily the same thing as best practice for a multi-national company somewhere in the States, for example, with more employees than a small New Zealand town. Yet we’re tricked into this way of thinking all the time.


It’s hard to believe it’s February already. It some ways it feels like we’re just getting started, and in others it’s amazing what has happened already, only four and a bit weeks into 2011. Intergen turns 10 this year, so it’s going to be a big one on lots of fronts for us – and a chance for us to stop, reflect and “smell the roses” – so here’s hoping it doesn’t speed by too fast!

All the best for 2011. Here’s to success, productivity and a far greater degree of certainty for us all over the coming 11 months.

Posted by: Tony Stewart, Intergen Group CEO | 01 February 2011

Tags: 2011 predictions

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